New research shows COVID-19 and other concerns impacting access to healthcare

Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Heart Foundation and Pfizer encourage those with underlying health conditions to prioritise their health this winter

Dublin, Monday November 21st, 2022: New research from Pfizer Healthcare Ireland confirms that lingering COVID-19 concerns are continuing to impact access to healthcare, which may have a longer-term impact on people’s health due to missed diagnoses. Of those surveyed, over a third of all adults are in some way worried about the possibility of a missed diagnosis due to the impact of COVID-19. The research also reveals that almost one third (32%) of people with an underlying condition are nervous about being in a hospital setting this winter.

The research, undertaken as part of the annual Pfizer Health and Science Index, asked respondents about their direct experience of COVID-19, their general health, and attitudes to science. Of the respondents who have had COVID-19 at least once, 80% had it in 2022, with the highest incidence occurring between January and April 2022 (45%). The research also revealed that 15% of people with an existing health condition, who tested positive for COVID-19, feel that their health has deteriorated as a result, with this figure increasing to one in five people (21%) amongst those aged 18-24.

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Pfizer Index also asked the general public about the cost-of-living and its potential impact on access to healthcare: three in 10 adults say they are less likely to go to the doctor this winter specifically due to the cost-of-living crisis, with younger age groups aged 18-24 (49%) more likely to put off a doctor’s visit because of these concerns. Worryingly, a fifth of all respondents confirmed they have already put off a trip to the doctor this year due to cost-of-living concerns.

While people in Ireland are generally quite positive about their health, scoring themselves 6.9 out of 10, the annual Pfizer Index has captured a gradual decline in this positive sentiment over a number of years. On average, Irish adults are concerned about developing a number of illnesses as they age (more than 4 are mentioned on average), with cancer, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s topping the list of concerns. More than half the adult population (56%), and two-thirds of women, are concerned about developing a form of cancer.

Looking at attitudes to science, with 40% of respondents studying science up to leaving certificate, and 20% at third level, more than three quarters (77%) believe there should be more focus on science subjects in primary school. There is general acknowledgement that STEM qualifications boost employability (56%), but equally a growth in the perspective that STEM courses necessitate high leaving certificate points and are difficult third-level courses to get into (51%). Four in ten (41%) of younger adults (aged 18-24) feel that Ireland has more STEM opportunities in comparison to other countries.

Commenting on the research, Deb Mangone, Country Manager, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland, said: “The research results showcase the impact of COVID-19 which is still being felt by the public and the health service. It’s really important for people to book their appointment for their booster this winter and if you get COVID-19, and are higher risk, it is especially important that you take action straight away and not ignore concerns. A worrying statistic from the Index shows that 36% of people are concerned they may have missed a medical diagnosis – we strongly encourage people to attend healthcare appointments, particularly if they have been putting this off and ensure they take preventative action to stay well this winter.”

Rachel Morrogh, Director of Advocacy and External Affairs, Irish Cancer Society, said: “While we are very concerned to see a third of people say that they are considering putting off a healthcare appointment this year due to the cost-of-living, we are unfortunately not surprised by this. We are yet to see the true impact of COVID-19 in terms of delayed cancer diagnoses, and with cost-of-living concerns adding yet another barrier to healthcare access, a lot of people who should be going to the doctor and getting an early diagnosis may not go, further escalating the scale of this issue. We implore anyone who needs to make an appointment with their healthcare provider to do so without delay. Please put your health first.”

Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy, Irish Heart Foundation, said: “The research shows that close to half (45%) of people who suffer from heart disease state it has a moderate to severe impact on them while 44% of those with high/low blood pressure also report a moderate to severe impact. Irish adults also continue to rate developing heart disease as a major future health concern. It’s important to emphasise that up to 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable. Through actions such as controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking, we can all minimise our risk of heart disease and stroke. As we age, taking proactive lifestyle steps under the advice of a qualified healthcare provider can help us all address the significant concerns highlighted in this research. We encourage anyone with health concerns to make an appointment with their healthcare provider today.”


About the Behaviour & Attitudes research:

This research was carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes Research & Insights (B&A) among a nationally representative sample of 1,050 adults. This is a nationally representative online survey of adults aged 18+ using quota controls for gender, age, social class, region, and area based on the census of population. Fieldwork was completed between 3rd October and 11th October 2022, with all interviews conducted online. Data based on the full sample can be deemed to be accurate to within +/- 2.8%.

B&A observe the standards set by ESOMAR in respect of opinion polling and are members of the Market Research Society (UK) and the Association of Irish Market Research Organisations (AIMRO.)

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